Bulgaria farmland sale ban challenged before top court

Bulgarian lawmakers filed Friday a request with the constitutional court to overrule a controversial ban on sales of farmland to foreigners, arguing it breached Bulgaria's EU commitments.

"Our request to the constitutional court is meant... to show that it is inadmissible to violate the rules of Bulgaria's European accession treaty," said Chetin Kazak, whose liberal MRF party initiated the move.

Thirty-six MRF deputies and 19 lawmakers from the ruling Socialist party signed the petition for the top court to declare the ban unconstitutional.

When it joined the European Union in 2007, Bulgaria negotiated to have a seven-year delay before allowing foreigners who are not permanent residents to buy farmland.

Parliament however extended the ban last month until 2020, a move that experts said contradicted both Bulgaria's EU accession treaty and the country's constitution.

The measure was proposed by the ultra nationalist Ataka party and approved with the help of conservative opposition and Socialist lawmakers.

But experts have warned it could trigger an infringement procedure and sanctions by the European Commission.

Socialist Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski and conservative opposition leader and ex-premier Boyko Borisov have already said it was an emotional rather than a rational decision and that the ban should be overturned.